Kung Fu Panda 4 Review

Jack Black is back as Po in Kung Fu Panda 4 and gives us a new adventure worthy of the previous films. In this latest movie, Po must find a successor to become the Dragon Warrior and move on to the next stage of his life. Is finding a successor an easy task? Is Po ready to go to the next level? Keep reading on as we hint at the answers to these questions.

After Po’s last adventure, it seemed that the story was complete. Master Oogway gave Po the Staff of Wisdom and all seemed well with the Valley of Peace. We start by seeing that the Dragon Warrior has been keeping himself busy and Shifu, voiced by Dustin Hoffman, informs Po that he must start preparing for his next level and look for a successor. Po feels that he has plenty of adventures left in him with the Furious Five and does not want to become the Spiritual Leader.

We learn that the Furious Five are out on various missions, hence why they are not in the movie, and see Po and Shifu watch potential successors demonstrate their moves to be the next Dragon Warrior. This scene is pretty funny but the screaming goat is what made me chuckle during this montage.

Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4, directed by Mike Mitchell.

As with any movie that has sequels, new characters are introduced to appeal to new viewers. In the case of Kung Fu Panda 4, we are introduced to Zhen, voiced by Awkwafina. Zhen is a fox who “meets” Po while attempting to take a few things that do not belong to her. This meeting leads to a partnership to find and take down the latest villain, a powerful shape-shifting sorceress known as The Chameleon, voiced brilliantly by Viola Davis. The Chameleon plans to get the essence from past masters to take control of the land.

The original trilogy of Kung Fu Panda was great as is. The third movie had a great ending and the Netflix series was a fun continuation of the series. This movie, at times, feels like it could have been a straight-to-streaming movie and not needed to be made for the big screen. The side story regarding Po’s two fathers, Mr. Ping and Li, voiced by James Hong and Bryan Cranston, is cute but feels disjointed at times. It is great to see both fathers work together and overcome their fears and it’s also a great message for parents to not only believe in themselves but in their kids.

(from left) Po (Jack Black) and Zhen (Awkwafina) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

What Kung Fu Panda 4 does is give children a new adventure to laugh and enjoy seeing Po on the big screen maybe for the first time. It shows them the importance of believing in themselves and learning how to be a mentor to others. Every kid can not be the Dragon Warrior but does have the ability to be something special in their own right. Just like the Furious Five, we all are important in our own ways and hopefully kids will catch that message when they see this movie.

Final Thoughts: Po is back in another new adventure in Kung Fu Panda 4. Do we need another Kung Fu Panda movie? The answer is a resounding yes! The latest chapter in the Kung Fu Panda movies is a natural progression in the series but at times it feels like it could have been released on a streaming site. What the movie does is help set up possible new adventures for Po, the Furious Five, and Zhen.

Kid-Friendly: Kung Fu Panda 4 is great for children of all ages. The storyline is very direct and will not be confusing for the younger ones. There is a little crude humor but that is expected from Po. The story of believing in yourself and becoming a mentor is great for kids of all ages and there is also a story of parents being there for their children.

Violence: The Kung Fu Panda movies are filled with fighting scenes that are great to see and exaggerated. If you have seen the previous movies you know what to expect with this one. The image of the Chameleon taking the Chi is a bit disturbing but nothing that will keep younger ones up at night.

After three death-defying adventures defeating world-class villains with his unmatched courage and mad martial arts skills, Po, the Dragon Warrior (Golden Globe nominee Jack Black), is called upon by destiny to … give it a rest already. More specifically, he’s tapped to become the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace.

That poses a couple of obvious problems. First, Po knows as much about spiritual leadership as he does about the paleo diet, and second, he needs to quickly find and train a new Dragon Warrior before he can assume his new lofty position. 

Even worse, there’s been a recent sighting of a wicked, powerful sorceress, Chameleon (Oscar® winner Viola Davis), a tiny lizard who can shapeshift into any creature, large or small. And Chameleon has her greedy, beady little eyes on Po’s Staff of Wisdom, which would give her the power to re-summon all the master villains whom Po has vanquished to the spirit realm. 

So, Po’s going to need some help. He finds it (kinda?) in the form of crafty, quick-witted thief Zhen (Golden Globe winner Awkwafina), a corsac fox who really gets under Po’s fur but whose skills will prove invaluable. In their quest to protect the Valley of Peace from Chameleon’s reptilian claws, this comedic odd-couple duo will have to work together. In the process, Po will discover that heroes can be found in the most unexpected places. 

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